Casamigos Tequila Joins Sidney Frank Importing Company

Suggested price of $44.99 for the Blanco and $49.99 for the Reposado
Casamigos ultrapremium Blanco and Reposado

A celebrity owned tequila joins a beverage alcohol powerhouse

Sidney Frank Importing Co. (known for Jägermeister and the creators of Grey Goose Vodka) has been named the exclusive importer of Casamigos Tequila. The brand is owned by actor/director/producer George Clooney, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gardner and real estate mogul Mike Meldman.

Usually, I don’t think very highly of celebrity owned or endorsed spirits products but this one sounds to me like a winner.

The previous winners — few and far between

I can only think of a few such products that have made it with dozens falling by the wayside. The top of the list is P Diddy and Ciroc. He has a stake in the brand and works hard at marketing it. Add Dan Akroyd and Crystal Head Vodka to the list – while not a home run, it has a presence and a following. Bringing up the rear is Skinny Girl, which came out of the starting block strong with Bethany Frankle, but seems to me to be languishing.

I can’t think of any other successes and the list of failures and wannabes is very large. (See my January 9, 2013 and August 21, 2010 blogs for the full obituary list.)

Will this one make it?

In my opinion, yes.

First, Sidney Frank Importing Co. (SFIC) is a significant player in the booze business with the infrastructure; sales and marketing players; and distributor network that’s top of the game. The gents running it are seasoned veterans and brand builders and so, put a double check mark next to trade marketing box.

But, the consumer is the ultimate judge and most critical component of brand success. Casamigos will need to challenge some pretty tough top shelf competition including Patron, Don Julio and, strong newcomer, Avión (my personal favorite). Oh, and let’s not forget Mr. Diddy’s new tequila venture, DeLeon Tequila.

What are some of the key elements of successful new entries?  Awareness, curiosity, discovery and willingness to try.

Imagine this… you’re in a bar with friends and someone says, “Hey, let’s have some tequila.” Someone else says, “Great idea, I’d like to try that new George Clooney tequila.” Another says, “Oh, I love George Clooney, great actor and seems like a decent, down to earth guy. Let’s buy a round.”

So… thanks to SFIC’s clout, the bar or restaurant will have Casamigos in stock. And, thanks to George Clooney, the consumer is very likely to try the brand.

In the brand building equation, if there is uniqueness and relevance (Clooney and tequila) awareness will very often lead to trial.

The most important elements in the equation, however, are brand adoption and loyalty (sustained usage). If the quality of the tequila is high and Mr. Clooney helps in the promotion, I think the brand will be around for the long run.

So, move over Diddy, there may be a new player in town.

George Clooney, Rande Gerber and Michael Meldman at the Sidney Frank national sales meeting.
George Clooney, Rande Gerber and Michael Meldman at the Sidney Frank national sales meeting.

 

 

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How a Chilean Wine came to the US via China…and won awards

labelsDon Mateo Wines started with three global entrepreneurs, a passion for wine making and a vision to become world class.

So, what’s so special, you ask, lots of aspiring winemakers out there.

Yes, but how many have won four awards at the recent Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) convention? And, how many have had a journey that began in China?

I first met the partners running Don Mateo Wines in late 2010 and was immediately struck by their business acumen, gained in global trading, and applied to the wine world. Their story is interesting.

Andy Lam and his brother Matthew were successful exporters of various products and commodities to Chile from China. Over the years, the currency exchange swings hurt their business and so they turned the ship around and began importing wine from Chile. Their passion about wine helped, and they began buying vineyards and wineries. Added to that was the patience and tenacity to develop top quality wines. They hit the Chinese wine market at the right point in time and the business flourished._MG_0417

You can’t be a global wine player without the US market, so a third partner, Peter Loucks, entered the picture and applied his overall business skills to the wine business. Peter is smart and a quick learner so it’s not surprising that he soon realized that, unlike China, the supply of wine (Chilean and others) exceeded the demand. Consequently, growth here would be an uphill battle. Further, the mandatory wholesaler tier has become more and more difficult to deal with, as in “take on another wine brand, are you kidding?”

But, he knew that despite the hurdles, he had some key brand equities and assets. For one thing, Don Mateo is a memorable brand name for a Chilean wine and the brand symbol is both interesting and notable to consumers.

Maoi

As you can see, the symbol/logo is the Moai (pr. mo-eye). These Moai are the monolithic statues of Easter Island, off the coast of Chile. According to their website “they reflect our commitment to discovery, craftsmanship and passion. These three elements have been the guiding principles for Don Mateo wines from Chile.” Might even stand for the three partners behind the venture. You never know.

If you asked the brand owners what is the single most important asset of their wines, their answer is most likely to be, the wine. Trust me folks, these are outstanding wines. But, in case you don’t believe it, think about the medals they won at the WSWA – three silver and a double gold.

silver and gold

Here’s the irony. Despite the entrepreneurial approach, despite their marketing and branding and, despite the high quality and good value, you would think wholesalers would be beating a path to their door. Instead, getting wholesalers to take on the line has been slow and difficult. Such is the state of the booze business and the plethora of brands on the market.

But, hey, the Moai on Easter Island have stood the test of time, so why shouldn’t Don Mateo Wines.

For you former Seagram folks out there… It might interest you to know that Jim Reichardt introduced me to them and their New Jersey wholesaler is Sam Ellias.

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King Cocktail’s New Venture

Dale DeGoffDale DeGoff is a booze business entrepreneur and somewhat of a renaissance man. His latest endeavor moves him from behind the bar into the realm of a manufacturer. He’s been credited as the inventor of the Cosmo and, more important, is a really nice guy.

I first met Dale back in the day when he was tending bar at some great places, most notably the Rainbow Room. From that point on, he was at the forefront of what’s been described as the gourmet (or mixologist) approach toward cocktails, particularly the classics.

I suppose that’s why he’s known as King Cocktail, although I think of him as a booze business equivalent of Wolfgang Puck – a celebrity barman (but without an accent).

The man has a list of awards, including the James Beard Award for Wine & Spirits and has written a number of books about cocktails. But wait, there’s more – he’s a partner in the bar training program called Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR, get it?) and founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail. He also tours the country with a one-man show called “ON THE TOWN! A Tribute to Bars, Speaks, & Legendary Saloons.”

You’d think that would be enough to keep him busy, right? Wrong. Dale has recently launched his own brand of bitters called Dale DeGoff’s Pimento 2bottles-3inchlrAromatic Bitters. It’s designed to be very similar to Pimento Dram, an ingredient Dale often used, but is no longer available. He joined forces with Ted Breaux, of recent Absinthe fame, to produce it.

I think that before I go any further, we should talk about bitters and their use in cocktails. If you’re a booze maven, you probably know this but indulge me anyhow.

According to Wikipedia (my go to information resource), bitters is an alcohol beverage (DeGoff’s is 90 proof) flavored with a range of herbs and spices. He uses select botanicals and allspice, which is made from the pimento berry (not to be confused with the little red things stuffed in olives). Adding a little bit of bitters to cocktails and you won’t believe how it enhances the flavor and taste.

Check out these recipes from his website .

So, Mr. DeGoff jumps over the bar and joins the ranks of other bar personalities and companies making commercial bitters, including Gary Regan (Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6), Angostura, Peychaud and others.

Welcome to the producer’s side of the bar, Dale.

 

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